MOUNT VERNON — One out away.
Kokosing Valley little league baseball took a huge step this year. Sunday’s loss in the District 5 tournament did little to quell the excitement.
The Kokosing Valley 10-year-old All-Stars fell in the losers’ bracket semifinal game to Granville, 8-7, at Phillips Park.
It took a thrilling come-from-behind effort by Granville to earn a walk-off win. For Kokosing Valley, it was an experience to build on.
“This was a thrill just to be here,” said Kokosing Valley head coach Dean Taylor. “We learned we can compete here. ... We felt like we had them. And then, we had a little bit of a letdown.”
Kokosing led, 6-0, after two innings of play. The team held a 7-3 lead after its half of the fifth. But two runs in the bottom of the fifth and three in the sixth ended Kokosing’s hopes of a district title.
Five of Kokosing’s first six batters scored in the game. Noah James, Kadden Lester, Gage Steinmetz and Andrew Allman all singled and scored in the first frame. Will Small reached on an error by the second baseman, scoring later off the bat of John Weckesser.
Allman singled to plate Tristen Taylor in the second inning, giving Kokosing its 6-0 lead.
Meantime, starting pitcher Weckesser was shutting down Granville. He pitched five innings to allow six hits and four earned runs, striking out three. Weckesser was aided by a solid defensive effort; with a runner on second, he forced the batter to ground out to second, then first baseman Allman gunned down the runner trying to take third.
Granville inched back into the game with three runs in the third, with Jack Bortle leading the way with a two-RBI single. Granville added two more in the fifth when Grant Van Winkle singled in Andrew Pfau, reached second on the throw, then advanced all the way home on two consecutive throwing errors.
Van Winkle then came on to pitch in relief, striking out three in 1 2/3 innings of work to earn the win.
In the bottom of the sixth, Steinmetz came on in relief and forced out the first two batters he faced. After allowing two walks, he was replaced by Taylor due to a high pitch count. Pfau then singled in one run, and Mitch Kumar smacked a double over the left fielder’s head to bring in the tying and winning runs.